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Authorities demolished Dalit houses on Independence Day

D J Walter Scott
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Demolition a fallout of complaints lodged with police against encroachments

“My mother fell at the feet of the officers pleading for mercy, saying she was a widow and had to take care of two growing children, but they pulled down our house,” said K.Lakshmi, a 20-year-old Dalit girl, whose house was one of the 20- odd houses demolished in Pappankulam village near here recently.

The Sirukudi Panchayat administration allegedly demolished the houses of 22 Dalit families, including five houses built by the government for the Dalits under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), on the grounds that they encroached on a public road.

The demolition was a fallout of complaints lodged by locals with the Manamadurai Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), objecting to the encroachments.

Those affected by the demolition drive raised the issue at the public grievance redressal meet on Monday, with petitions being presented to the Collector.

Lakshmi, forced to leave school following her father’s death, told ‘ The Hindu ’ that Dalits had been living in the area for the past 25 years.

“They did not allow us to remove our things, including the books of my brother, who is studying Plus Two. We were abruptly thrown on the road,” she said, struggling to hold back tears.

Her mother Boopathy fell at the feet of the officials and pleaded with folded hands, but they would not listen, she said. Neighbours offered food and they slept in a temple, she added.

M.Sudha (28), wife of Magalingam, who also lost their home, said her husband was a construction labourer in Mumbai and they had built the house recently with the subsidy provided by the government under the IAY. The neighbours helped her to feed her two children – a boy aged 5 and a girl aged 3. They too slept in the temple, she said.

When contacted, Mr.Thangaraj, husband of D.Amsavalli, president of Sirukudi village pachayat, speaking on behalf of his wife, said the panchayat administration, acting on the orders of the police, had demolished only three houses and the rest of the houses were demolished by the villagers themselves, who wanted access to their places.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) MLA G.Bhim Rao met Collector V.Rajaraman on Tuesday along with the affected family members and presented a petition, demanding alternative accommodation for the affected families and action against the officials concerned.

When contacted, the Collector said the District Revenue Officer (DRO) had inspected the village and submitted a report after an enquiry with the local people. “Based on the report and a detailed enquiry, suitable action will be taken,” he told The Hindu .

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